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Posts Tagged ‘le top Premiere Retailer’

Paddycake…Paddycake…Baker’s man…HOLD the nursery rhyme song and check out this week’s “Store Spotlight” with Chocolate Pattie Boutique in Rockford, Illinois.  Pattie Crichton-Hill, owner of Chocolate Pattie Boutique, gives us an insider peek of pictures of her as a child and hand-me-downs, the importance of “making it your own” in the children’s industry, and her special baby due date calendar.

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1.      Have you always been interested in entering the children’s business?
Pattie: I studied mechanical engineering and have always loved math and art…life has taught me to keep an open mind to new opportunities that may not be part of the original plan.

2.      Are you a Rockford, Illinois native? Describe the neighborhood your store is in for us.
Pattie: I grew up in Rockford and went to southern California for college. After 11 years in So Cal, I moved home to be near my parents again. Chocolate Pattie is in a quaint neighborhood with a wonderful reputation and no big box stores. Many customers are thrilled when they don’t have to go to the mall.

3.      What type of clothing did you wear growing up as kid? What tip would you give to a parent dressing a child? Do you have a picture of you as a kid you can share with us?
Pattie: I am the 4th girl in my family. My dad had 5 sisters, 4 daughters, 4 granddaughters…and then I broke the streak when I had my son. My mom told me at one point I would not wear anything new (the hand-me-downs must have been very comfortable). If she could see me now surrounded by beautiful new children’s clothing! As a parent, I believe children crave structure…a choice between 2 outfits should be enough responsibility at any age.

Pattie as a child

4.      What is 1 tip you would give a parent on how to update your child’s wardrobe this summer?
Pattie:
Hats are always fun and protect their young skin. Bracelets seem to be popular this year also.

5.      What is one fact about your store that a typical customer wouldn’t know?
Pattie: Shortly after opening the store, I was stunned at how many customers took me into their lives with their joys and sorrows. I write on my calendar when babies are due and quietly worry with them.

6.       Between all of the social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, and more – what do you think about social networking and how it allows moms and dads to join cyber parenting communities where they can meet, gain knowledge, as well as get recommendations and support.
Pattie: I am impressed with the new generation who researches issues such as cloth diapers and then decide what will fit with their family’s lifestyle.

7.      What sets you apart as a successful children’s store?
Pattie:
I listen carefully to my customers and do my homework on how brands vary. Customers realize I am in the store 95% of the time. When I shop, l tend to run from pushy sales people so I am constantly aware of my words so I do not push. For me, it is not all about making a sale.

8.      If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?
Pattie: Make it your own because it won’t last long mimicking another business.

9.      You probably have seen hundreds of mommies and daddies come through your store and hear them speaking with their children – what is the funniest or sweetest thing you have heard come out of a child’s mouth recently?
Pattie: Many children think my name is Chocolate Pattie, not Pattie. I love to hear family members tell me the child asked to go to Chocolate Pattie to play. The play area makes everyone more comfortable and occasionally I get to play!

10.  What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?
Pattie: I am honored each time someone tells me their child or grandchild wore a Chocolate Pattie outfit for their milestone picture. I take pride knowing I choose every clothing and accessory line for my store. It makes me smile knowing those pictures will be around for a very long time.

11.  What collection or piece from Le Top or Le Top Baby line do you love from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?
Pattie: Daisy Duck Group – just when I think Le Top can not design another cute duck line, you do…

Chocolate Pattie Boutique
1676 North Alpine Road
Rockford, IL 61107-1415
815.316.2468

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Lollipop, Lollipop, oh-lalli-lalli-pop! Read all about this week’s “Store Spotlight with Lollipops Children’s Shop in Latham, New York.  Chris Coletta, owner of Lollipops Children’s Shop, gives us the story of moving store locations without a credit card machine and her top sales ever, her favorite children’s book and 3 tips to owning a successful children’s boutique.

Visit Le Top’s Facebook and become a Fan to receive weekly “Store Spotlight” updates — Become a fan and Click HERE 

1.    Have you always been interested in entering the children’s business? What was your background prior?
Chris: 
Ever since I had my two girls who are now 30 and 25-years-old, I have always been interested in children’s clothing. When they were born, I used to dress them to the nines!  At ages 4 and 9, I decided that I wanted to open up our shop and called it Lollipops Children’s Shop. I opened the store because I loved the outfits that I dressed the girls in so much and there weren’t any kids shops around where I could buy this types of clothing – they were my inspiration!

Prior to the store, I didn’t have children’s apparel experience, but more of a passion with the support of my wonderful husband, Dennis.

2.    The name of your store reminds of me of something whimsical like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – I am envisioning lollipops everywhere and sweet kids shopping! – Where did the name come from?
Chris: During the process of naming our store, my husband Dennis and I were looking through pictures of children and found two children holding lollipops stepping into a box, so that is where it came from!

3.    Are you a New York native? If so, what did you do growing up as a kid in the local area? Describe the neighborhood your store is in for us.
Chris: Yes, I am! We are from upstate New York near Albany. My cousins all lived down the street, and it was a great place to grow up. Our store is located in a beautiful affluent neighborhood, and is in a strip mall with other retail stores and restaurants.

4.    What is your favorite kid book and why?
Chris: The book that came to mind is the Little Engine that Could because the premise of the book is about really wanting something and making it happen. Dennis and I really related to this in wanting to open our store – it is how we approach our business.

5.    What is 1 tip you would give a parent on how to update your child’s wardrobe for summer?
Chris: I would probably tell a customer to buy some basic bottoms (solid color or a khaki) for the summer and fun tops to switch up the outfit. Then buy a trendy accessory like a bow or hat to make it look special.

6.    Who is your target customer?
Chris: Our target customers are new parents and grandparents that want something special for their children. Oh – and also love to find beautiful gifts.

7.    Any Celebrity customers over the years or do you have any celebs buying right now?
Chris: This spring Tony Dovolani from DWTS (Dancing With The Stars) stopped in! We also had a very good customer who would buy for the musician James Taylor’s twins when they were babies until when they were 5 and 6 years old!

8.    What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?
Chris:

  1. Knowing your customers’ wants and needs
  2. Building long and lasting relationships with your customers
  3. Go above and beyond for your customers. For example, we take special orders and offer complimentary gift wrap.
  4. I know it is supposed to be 3 keys to success, but a 4th key is to be in the store!  I am in the store 90% of the time because as an owner, you should always be there, and even though I have great employees who are trained the way I would personally do sales, it is important to show your face on the floor.

9.    If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?
Chris: You have to be willing to spend most of the time at the store and know the business. It is the most important thing. Build relationships! A lot of returning customers become family to you. You end up thinking about those customers with personal relationships when you are buying at the trade shows.

10.    What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?
Chris: We were originally at our 1st location for 12 years. Then 10 years ago, the owners of a local mall came to us and we decided to move…we we’re nervous at first, but it was an unbelievable change. We closed our original store location on the evening of June 30th and opened at the new store location the morning of July 1st.  We didn’t even have a credit card machine and it was our busiest day in our business EVER. We weren’t even dressed for business – I was still in my sneakers and customers were buying right off the rack.  It made us feel good about the move and location. We have now been in business a total of 22 years.

11.    What collection or piece from Le Top and/or rabbit moon do you heart most from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?
Chris:
My favorite collections were the girl ‘Daisy Duck’ collection and the boy ‘Gone Fishin’ collection because customers love that combination of mixing and matching.

LOLLIPOPS CHILDREN’S SHOP
594 New Loudon Rd.
Latham, NY 12110
518.786.0379

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Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers – say that 10x fast! Okay, FORGET that and instead check out Piper Children’s Boutiques who are our 7th premier store retailer in our “Store Spotlight” series (where we feature one of Le Top’s best stores of the week).  Nancy Vansanten, owner of Piper Children’s Boutiques, gives us the low down on shopping at her 3 stores in Indiana and what makes her boutiques “different” – even having her store employees dress up in whimsical tutus and fairy wings!  How fun!


Visit Le Top’s Facebook and become a Fan to receive weekly “Store Spotlight” updates — Become a fan and Click HERE

Visit Piper Children’s Boutiques’ website at http://www.piperboutiques.com/

1.   The name “piper” reminds me of the Peter Piper nursery rhyme – was this the inspiration of your store name? If not, what was your inspiration?

Nancy:  Piper is my daughter’s name, hence the stores name. Piper was 2 when I opened the first store. She is pregnant now and expecting in August.  The baby is going to come home from the hospital in Le Top! Like so many of my other customers! 

2.   They always say, “location, location, location” in real estate. You have 3 store locations – which was the original store location? Can you describe the neighborhoods of your stores?

Nancy:  The first store opened on March 17th, 1983 in Hobart, Indiana. 5 years later the Valparaiso store opened. The Indy store is Piper’s and opened on March 17th, 2006. The stores are located in downtown areas, smack dab in the middle of town. I like the feel of downtowns and it gives me more freedom than operating out of a mall.


3.  
What do you think is the best way to pick a baby name?

Nancy:  Right now my daughter is pregnant with a baby boy due this August – the name is a secret still! I always wanted Piper to name her son Tom-Tom. This was an idea years ago. You know, Tom-Tom the Piper’s Son, but that was rejected immediately. Obviously I have no idea how to pick a name for a child. I used to record the new babies names that shopped in my store, and have always felt very popular names would not suit me. Sarah Palin copied me though. In 1980, when Piper was born, I never heard the name Piper, now it seems to have caught on.

4.   What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?

Nancy:  Three Keys:  First two are obvious – customer service and dedication to work. The one thing, and main thing, that sets us apart and keeps people coming is “We’re Different.” We are not only carry a great mix of merchandise that is quality, unique, funky, a little edgy, top of the trends, classic etc., but we also have ‘out-there’ displays; most people say how different our stores are. Most of our lines are exclusive to NW Indiana. I travel everywhere to find our produt.  Europe, Asia, South America etc. I’ve even looked around Arabia a few times. Didn’t find anything but great for inspiration. Here are few of the qualities that make us “different” and unique:

  • Our hours on the door say:  Daily 10:00 – 5:53, Friday 10:00 – 7:53, Sunday – At the Beach.  People often ask ‘why 5:53?’  Our response “We’re Different – come see how.”  Our phone message states the same. They ask “at the beach? In the middle of the winter?.”  Response:  ‘We didn’t say what beach”.
  • The display girls wear tutus and wings when we are changing the windows and the costumers love it.
  • We often dress to the theme of the near holiday or make up one of our own.
  • In the summer there are many diners eating outside near our store.  We try to change the windows then. Our window displays are whimsical – magical, so we are told.
  • Our hats are legendary – we make some of them and often have “Hat Hour”
  • We give out $2.00 bills for change.
  • We have fun.
  • We accessorize every outfit.  Hat, bow, shoes, blanket, toy, bracelet, purse, sox etc.  We have many come to the store to accessorize outfits they were given, even from other stores. “Staying true to quality, comfort and design in every piece of clothing I choose” is my motto.  Le Top is one of the best manufactures I have had in all three of these criteria, plus the customer service is unmatched anywhere in this industry.
  • We deliver to new moms in the hospitals.
  • Our windows are extreme.  Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess.  I think Bruno (our Le Top sales representative) would tell you that about me.  There are so many other ways we are different but I don’t want to give away everything.

5.   If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?

Nancy:  Advice — Post your hours and KEEP them.  It sounds easy but it’s not.

6.   What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?

Nancy:  One memorable moment, and there are many, is at my 25th anniversary celebration.  I saw so many past moms that are now grandmothers and return to wish me luck and buy a special outfit for their grandchild. I often hear, ” I brought all my children home from hospital [or Easter dress, Christmas, etc.] in a Piper outfit and now I’m doing the same for my grandchildren.”

I think I am one of Le Top’s longest standing retailers…27 or 28 years?

7.   What collection or piece from Le Top and/or rabbit moon do you love most from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?

Nancy: I always love the coming-home-from-the-hospital outfits.  My grandson is coming home in the Puppy, Please! group.

Owner Nancy Vansanten (right) in her Hobart Store


PIPER CHILDREN’S BOUTIQUE LOCATIONS
http://www.piperboutiques.com/

Piper Children’s Boutique
8235 E 116th Street
Fishers, IN 46038
317.578.7002

Piper Children’s Boutique
15 E Lincoln Way
Valparaiso, IN 46383
219.464.7473

Piper Children’s Boutique
322 Main Street
Hobart, IN 46323
219.942.2681

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It’s a baby bug’s life! Read about our 6th premier retailer in our weekly “Store Spotlight” series where we feature one of Le Top’s best stores.  Judy Novinger, owner of Baby Bug & Me, gives us the fun facts of the state bug of Pennsylvania (where her store is located), her launch of a “shoetique,” what mommies buy in her store versus her online boutique, and what celebrity mommy she would love to meet!

1.      What made you decide to enter the children’s business and what did you do before?

Judy: Baby Bug & Me is a spin off of my previous retail gift shop named Lightning Bug, Inc. There was a major closing of many of the children’s boutiques in the greater Harrisburg, PA area a few years ago.  I opened Baby Bug & Me in September 2003 to fill this retail gap.

2.      The name of your store is very playful – where did the name come from?

Judy:   My original gift shop featured a whimsical little girl lightning bug as our logo.  Our baby boutique logo shows the little girl lightning bug all grown up and pushing a buggy with a baby bug.

Thus the name “Baby Bug & Me.”  Oh by the way, the “Lightening Bug” is also the state insect of Pennsylvania!

3.      What would people be surprised to learn about you and your store?

Judy: I was formerly a gift buyer for a large department store and decided to interview for the children’s clothing buyer position. I was told that I ‘didn’t have what it took to buy children’s fashions’ and did not get the job.   As time went on, I moved on to pursue other opportunities in sales and retail.  Ironically, had I been selected for that original position there probably would not be a Baby Bug & Me today.

4.      Who is your target customer?

Judy: The grandparents are my strongest supporters!  Being a grandmother of eight, I know the thrill of having the child of my child in my arms.  My customers share stories, pictures and what they want to buy for their families. The grandparent shopper is looking for the clothing that “keeps children looking like children”. That is why Le Top is our largest clothing retailer source.  They give quality and take cute to the limit!

5.      As a couple, you and your husband must have incredibly demanding schedules with the store. What’s the key to your successful marriage?

Judy: My husband Jim, whom I am married to for 40 years, is the man behind the scenes.  Even with having a full-time job, he still finds the time to support Baby Bug & Me.  From my visions, he builds my fixtures.  He supports my business computer needs, and he is the MUSCLE behind the heavy “grunt work.”

6.      What products do your clientele like the most?

Judy: Layette, playwear and shoes are our strongest categories.  We provide sizes preemie to 4 toddlers for boys, and girls’ sizes expand from preemie to 6x with a move to 10/12 in the fall. This fall we will have completed our expansion of “The Shoetique”.  This is our store within a store concept for shoes.  Fortunately, my customers are very forthcoming with what they want for their shopping needs.  They want good quality shoes to match the clothing they purchase.

7.      Any Celebrity customers over the years or do you have any celebs buying right now?

Judy: Most of my celebs are from our diverse local TV and radio personalities.  It’s fun meeting the person behind the voice on the radio.

8.      There are so many famous celebrity mommies that we see each week in the weeklies such as Us Weekly, InTouch, etc. – if you could meet one celeb mommy or daddy, who would it be and why?

Judy: I think I’d like to meet Sandra Bullock.  She seems like a good, caring working mother and an all around nice person.

9.      Between all of the social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, and more – what do you think about social networking and how it allows moms and dads to come together as a parenting community?

Judy: I have learned that the computer savvy mother turns to the Internet for their children’s needs.  After hours, when moms are finally settled, she browses the Internet to shop and network with other parents.  We actually just hired a new associate for our store that set Baby Bug & Me up on Facebook.  Wow! What a network!  I also have learned to surf the net to find new and exciting product for the store – it helps me with the necessary planning to attend seasonal kids trade shows.

10. I heard the Lemoyne area in Pennsylvania is pretty cute; describe the neighborhood your store is in for us.

Judy: Lemoyne is located approximately 2 miles south of Harrisburg, PA, our capitol.  We are 1 of 14 upscale businesses located above the West Shore Farmers Market.  Picture a smaller scale Quincy Market type atmosphere as seen in Boston.

11. What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?

Judy: Customer Service, Fine Quality Merchandise, and Product Knowledge.  We always want our customer’s time in Baby Bug to be a good experience.  They deserve individual attention when buying for whatever the occasion.  We supply free gift wrapping for one stop shopping and a special play area to keep those little people occupied.  Customers want a unique look that screams quality.  We feel the customer deserves to know the origin, manufacturer and the proper care of all our products.

12. How do you select your products for the store? Do you find that there is a difference between your online boutique consumers for your brand versus your typical store consumer?

Judy: We have a three-part formula.  One third is what I feel the customer will like.  One third is what is trending i.e. organic.  One third is what the area demands, shoes, christening, seasonal, preemie, etc. We find our online customer wants to buy accessories and toys rather than clothing.  The store customer wants to touch the merchandise.  They like to see the colors, evaluate attributes and talk with us about proper sizing.  How frustrating it is to buy something on the web only to find it needs to be returned for one reason or another.  We do shipping for the continental US and military APO and FPO addresses for both online or store sales.

13. If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?

Judy: Always begin with a financial business plan. It is not a matter of just going to the market place and buying pretty things. Do your homework to meet both the area’s needs and your financial plans.  Mentor with other business people.

14. What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?

Judy: I believe that most people, when asked this question, would probably respond with a happy story, and I have many of those. However, my most memorable moment was when I was able to personally assist a grieving grandfather in selecting the burial clothing for his deceased new grandchild. I felt so humbled in helping this family.

15. What collection or piece from Le Top and/or rabbit moon are you loving from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?

Judy: I am wowed by the oranges and blues of Lots ‘o Fish, a true step away from the traditional blues and pinks. The style and fashion make this a fun group for either boy or girl.  I love the mixing of patterns and stripes and the use of the whimsical orange fish appliqués.

Baby Bug & Me
900 Market Street
Lemoyne, PA 17043
717.763.1780
http://www.babybugandme.com

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I take the Fifth!  Check out our 5th premier retailer in our “Store Spotlight” series where we feature one Le Top’s best stores of the week.  Cheryl Leslie, owner of Lad N’ Lassie, gives us the inside details of kid shopping in Prestonburg, Kentucky, and her special, heartfelt moments at her store.

Lad N'Lassie store front featuring Le Top's Playful Pups collection

1.   What made you decide to enter the children’s business? 

CHERYL: Let’s see – I bought the business back in 1997, but Lad N’ Lassie has been in business since 1966!  In 1997, the owners at the time were looking to sell because they were tired (owning a children’s store is 24/7!). I had honestly never been in retail, and they approached me about buying it.  It [buying Lad N’ Lassie] was just something that I had positive feelings about.  I have loved every single day of it since. I used to shop for my children in the store and I was so familiar with the location already.  What is funny is the story even goes deeper than that. The owner’s husband was my father’s lab technician at his dental practice and we knew each other going back over the years!

2.   What was your background prior to this business? 

CHERYL: I was a dental assistant for 22 in my father’s dental practice.

Le Top: You must have some pretty white and bright teeth?

CHERYL: Oh, yes! A big plus in my life!  But, I learned the children’s business very, very quickly, all on my own.

3.   The name of your store reminds of me of country handsome boys and sweet hometown girls – where did the name come from?

CHERYL: It’s funny you asked, because I actually just called the daughter of the previous owner to find out where the name of our store came from.  I discovered that the owner had named it Lad N’ Lassie because its another name for a cute boy and girl – plain and simple as that!  The previous owner’s name was Dot Marshall. She was a great woman.  I purchased the store from her daughter Meg who is now retired.

4.   Your store is located in Prestonburg, Kentucky, otherwise known as the Star City of Eastern Kentucky – it sounds enchanting!  Describe the neighborhood your store is in for us. 

CHERYL: We are in a very, very tiny town where there is a 3,000-person population.  There are only 2 children’s stores in our county, along with a little ladies store, a jewelry store…you get the picture, very few stores.  Despite such a small local population, I am lucky enough to have all of my surrounding counties and my customer base range as far as over 250 miles away!  We are located in a valley in the mountains, surrounded by lush greenery.  Everybody knows everybody (just like Cheers!). Overall, it is a beautiful, quiet town that is ‘homey.’ 

5.   Who is your target customer? Do you specialize in any certain types of product?

CHERYL: Our target customers are grandparents and parents.  If I had to break down our 3 main types of product, they would be: clothing, shoes and toys, but clothes are definitely our number one!  Our customers are always looking for something unique, comfortable, great quality, and of course, easy to care for. We do a tremendous business in baby registry.

Le Top: Do you ever get any ‘Momzilla’s’ for baby registries that want anything and everything?

CHERYL:  Oh yea!!!  We even deliver directly to the baby showers and these moms always want it ALL.  Baby registry at our store is so popular that kids are now registering for their own birthdays.

Le Top: Really? What age?

CHERYL: From babies to 2-years-old!  The kids come in the store and pick what out what they want out and we (Lad N’ Lassie) set up a registry table at the store.  We do whatever works!  We could have as many as 4-5 showers on a weekend. People call with their credit card and we deliver and drive over the gifts personally to our customers.

Baby section highlights Le Top Baby's Puppy's Day Out collection

6.   What products are your ‘fly-off-the-shelf’ type items?  

CHERYL: That is hard to say.  Customers come into the store to buy clothes and it ALWAYS has to be the complete ensemble. The bow, the hat, and the shoes – the complete look.  I love Le Top (as do our customers) – you always have the entire look from the dress to the tights to the purse and more.

7.   “When are we going to be there?” We’ve all heard it. Let’s be honest, we have all gone on a long road trip in a car growing up with the family.  Hypothetically, if you drove across the country, what 3 items could you never live without?  AND if someone was driving through Prestonburg – what 3 places should they stop and see?

CHERYL: 3 items I could never live without on a long road trip might sound funny because it is so simple:

1) Food  2) Family  3) Makeup

CHERYL: If someone were driving through Prestonburg, I would tell him or her to stop at these 3 great places:

1)  Jenny Wiley State Park – it is the home of Dewey Lake, and also has Jenny Wiley Amphitheater that sells out all of its plays. The amphitheater actually opens next week and it’s like going to Broadway in New York City (actors travel from all over the country to perform here).

2) Stonecrest Golf Course

3) Then probably our Mountain Arts Center that brings in musical entertainment of all kinds…from rock to country.  We even have our own contemporary Kentucky Opry.

4) BUT, if I could name a 4th place, they would have to come see me at Lad N’ Lassie

8.   Between all of the social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, and more – what do you think about social networking and how it allows moms and dads to come together as a parenting community?

CHERYL: I think it is a great thing [cyber parenting communities].  I have had a couple of parents recently come into the store and bring brochures where they want to get together with other parents in online chat rooms or Facebook type parenting groups; especially when they are new in the community, it helps to networks.  These parents leave their email contact info and Facebook info on pamphlets and then they get together to meet new people. Overall, I think it is a wonderful idea! I am personally on Facebook. I am even a fan of Le Top on Facebook.

9.   What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?

CHERYL:
1) Great customer service and staff knowledge

2): Hard work. It’s not a 9-5 job…it is 24/7. I come back here so many nights to do paperwork or put up product – there is always something.  Throughout the day, I am with customers and there is never enough time in the day.  If someone says to you in the children’s retail world that they are bored, there is something wrong. 😉

3) You have TO HAVE a terrific working rapport with your sales reps and vendors and able to contact them.  I rely on them for so much, and I don’t know how many times a week I talk to them for something I need in the store.

10.   How do you select your products for the store?

CHERYL: I attend a lot of markets, such as the one in Atlanta, the local market in Lexington, Kentucky, as well as Nashville. My reps call me all the time and because of the trust I have with them over the years, they tell me about new products or lines coming out that they want me to look at; I always check it out and try to keep things new and fresh.

11.   What is one trend you are seeing now that you love and one that you want to go away for dressing children?

CHERYL: The trend I love is color and whimsy!  I love clothing that makes a child look like a child.  Le Top customers always ‘ooh and ahh’ over the design and quality.

As for something I’m not a fan of? I want to see children look like children.  I tend to steer away from the ‘adult’ looking clothing. I understand for older kids such as older girls that are 11-years-old to dress them up a bit like a young adult (trust me they love the “bling” and over the top items), but I can’t help but like cute clothing for kids!

12.   If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?

CHERYL: It is 24/7 and you have to love what you are doing. People ask me everyday about wanting to get into the business.  They say to me that they want to do this everyday, but sometimes I think they want to dress their children wholesale (ha, ha!), but it’s a lot more than that!

13. You probably have had many mommies and their children come in and out of your store doors – what is one of the funniest things you have heard come out of parent or child’s mouth?

CHERYL: We laugh everyday in our store, but it’s hard to pinpoint one particular moment.  I should keep a journal of it!

Shown here are pieces from rabbitmoon's Blossom and Passage collections.

14.   What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?

CHERYL: You know there has been a few – I have had quite a few parents who have had newborns and left directly from the hospital and their first stop (before home) was my store to see me and I can see their new baby. It is so SWEET.

The other moment that I love is that most of the kids who come to our store never refer to my store as Lad N’ Lassie because we have a great play area for kids inside the store – they always say they want to go to, “Cheryl’s and play.”  They come happy and leave crying and that is special to me that they enjoy coming here. One parent the other day told me she asked her child what he wanted to do today and he said, “I want to go to Cheryl’s!” We have a train set, Melissa and Doug toys, full kitchen with dishes, shopping cart, play table for Lego blocks, baby dolls and strollers, and more! The kids go to that area and we don’t hear a peep (plus the parents can shop easily)!

15.   What collection or piece from Le Top and/or rabbitmoon are you loving from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?

CHERYL: From Le Top, I love the Tulip Garden for girls and for boys Sail Away. In rabbitmoon I love the girls Cupcake collection and for boys I love Passage.  Rabbitmoon has become one of my top selling lines.  I think because it has a whole different look with its patterned designs and of course, the parents all talk about the ‘super soft feel.’ I get it [rabbitmoon] in the store and they just LOVE it.

Lad N’ Lassie
A Children’s Boutique
188 West Court Street
Prestonsburg, KY 41653
606.886.3142

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Uno, Dos, Tres!  Check out the 3rd premier retailer in our “Store Spotlight” series that features one top le●top store pick of the week.  Read more below for an inside “peek” into one of the best children’s retailers in Texas!

We put the mic up to Sally and Marc Whitehouse, owners of Bright Beginnings and Cotton Tots – who have four of the most adorable and well-respected children’s boutiques in Texas (and a pretty darn amazing online store too!) – and got the skinny on what any good mommy, daddy and kiddie shopper would want to know.

1.  How did you both get started with Bright Beginnings?

Sally: We had trouble finding the kind of clothing we wanted for our own children…cool, comfortable, easy-wearing cotton in fun styles.  We also loved the idea of entrepreneurship and sharing with others the delightful brands we had found.

2.  What was your background prior to this business?

Sally: We are a family business…started by us back in 1984.  Prior to that, Marc had his own CPA firm at the time, and I had taken time off from teaching high school special education to have children.

3.  Bright Beginnings is a distinctive store name – does it have any special history?  What was the evolution behind your 4 store names from Bright Beginnings to Best Dressed Kids to Cotton Tots?

Sally & Marc: We hope that all children have a very bright beginning of life!  And we believe that clothing should be very bright and colorful as well…it just makes you smile!  Our Austin stores were all named Bright Beginnings, but the name was taken in other Texas cities…hence our Houston stores became Cotton Tots…referring to the fact that most of our clothing was luscious, comfortable cotton.  Our website name needed to encompass specifically who we are, to aid in branding and in searches online.  Bestdressedkids.com seemed to say it all!

4Describe the neighborhood your 4 stores are in.

Marc: Our stores are all in suburban neighborhoods of fine cities.  We like to have that neighborhood feel of knowing our customers and their families.

5.  Who is your target customer? Do you specialize in any certain types of product? Does it vary from store to store?

Sally & Marc: Our target customer is anyone looking for something unique and of great value for babies through tweens…with a little bit for their mommies, too!  We specialize in soft, comfortable clothing and we appeal to people of all income levels as we have a variety of goods, with something for everyone’s needs.  We also strive to be kid AND parent friendly in styling and comfort.

6.  What products do your clientele like the most?

Sally: That’s a hard one, because we have such a variety.  I think they have come to trust us as a place to get unique products at a good price, with wonderful customer service.

7.  Any Celebrity customers over the years or do you have any celebs buying right now?

Sally & Marc: Governors, politicians and actors…oh my!  Yes, we certainly do and we like to honor their privacy.  😉 

Bright Beginnings features le•top

8.  What’s coming up for Bright Beginnings? Any new stores or updates buying features to your website?

Sally & Marc: We are currently unveiling a new website that has more features and is more user-friendly than our current Bestdressedkids.com.  We are also developing a software program that provides real time point of sale, back office and Internet sales.

9.  What makes Bright Beginnings unique after 26 years?

Sally & Marc: Customer service and a desire to really help people.  We have always been in this business for the long haul.  We encourage true listening and that burning desire to find the perfect thing for each customer.  Sometimes we don’t have it…and that’s okay…but we still gain a loyal customer who will come back.

10.  You have a remarkable history and have been around 26 years, do you celebrate your anniversary years?

Sally: We do quietly celebrate the gratitude we feel for our staff, our customers, and our vendors.

11.   What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?

Sally & Marc:

1)  A friendly, knowledgeable staff
2)  Partnership with our reps and vendors
3)  Determination to keep a large selection of unique offerings to our customers.

12.  How do you select your products for the store?

Sally & Marc: We analyze sales and performance by brand constantly…so through sell-through reports, fashion sense, buying experience, and a well-rounded look at each category, size range, and brand.

13.  What is one trend you’re currently seeing with customers?

Sally: Customers are definitely streamlining their purchases and buying more items that will mix and match together.  We have always been fans of mixing and matching, as it stretches your options…so this is trend is perfect for us.

14.  If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?

Marc: Find your niche based on what people are looking for, but then be flexible and listen to your customers.

15.  You probably have seen thousands of mommies and their children come in and out of your stores’ doors – what is one of the funniest things you have heard come out of parent or child’s mouth?

Sally: I have always said that I could write a book about things I’ve seen and heard, but it’s hard to pinpoint the funniest!  I guess we all chuckled quite a bit when a mom confessed that she had gone into a competitor’s store and said she was so embarrassed that her child asked for an “I Love Bright Beginnings” sticker to wear!

16.  What are your top 3 fashionista tips for dressing a child? And your #1 kid fashion “no-no”?

Sally:

1)  Let them be part of the process and show their true personality (with your family values as a guide, of course!)
2)  Be sure they like it…if they don’t like it in the store, they most likely won’t wear it from home.
3)  Remember that this time goes so quickly.  There is only a short amount of time when we can wear fun, silly, overdone clothing that just makes us feel good.  (See, don’t you wish you could do that today?)  Don’t be too serious about how they dress when they are young…relax and enjoy it (and take lots of pictures ;))
4)  #1 No-no:  Dressing a child like a small adult.  Too serious! 

17.  What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?

Sally: Sitting on the floor with a little girl who was 5 years old and whose mother told me she had a poor self-image.  I thought, “Not at FIVE!”  I had her help me with a gift wrap project and we talked while her mom shopped.  Just as expected, she was a beautiful soul.  It reminded me how precious each child is.

18.  What collection or piece from letop and/or rabbit moon are you loving from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?

Sally: The le●top leopard, giraffe, and duck monokinis….they are spectacular!  I see little ones wearing these at my neighborhood pool, complete with hat and sunglasses, and it makes me giggle every time.

 

 

AUSTIN, TX LOCATIONS 

Bright Beginnings
1006 W. 38th Street
Austin, TX 78705
512.454.5437

Bright Beginnings & Bee-yond
701 S Capital of TX Highway, Suite B 280
Austin, TX 78746
512.328.8989

Best Dressed for Less
3811 Medical Parkway
Austin, TX 78756
512.453.0433

HOUSTON, TX LOCATIONS

Cotton Tots
6510 Woodway
Houston, TX 77057
713.785.8686 

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